Thursday, October 8, 2009

Opportunity for Engagement: Volunteer to Listen for the Future

Even before the 2008 founding of the Center for the Future of Museums, AAM was helping the field detect the winds of change through partnership with the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Listening Post Project. This project helps the nonprofit sector “know which way the wind blows” through periodic surveys of social service agencies (family and children services, homes for the aged, community development groups, etc.) and arts organizations (theatres, orchestras and museums). More than a thousand community-based organizations already serve as listening posts—windsocks for the sector, tracking the critical challenges to nonprofits and identifying creative, innovative responses from the field.

So far, the Listening Post Project has produced influential reports on internet technology use, costs of employee health care, volunteerism, economic stress and advocacy. The next sounding will be devoted to innovations and performance.

CFM is looking for 50 more museums to become Listening Posts—AAM membership not required. Participation is easy: all your museum has to do is respond to periodic soundings (short, on-line questionnaires—usually 20 minutes or less to complete) on topics ranging from governance, finances and operations to the role of nonprofits in American society. Participants receive an advance copy of any published analysis and, whenever possible, benchmarking reports about the museum field and their particular organization—plus the knowledge that they are helping both the museum field and the nonprofit sector in general prepare for the future.

For more information, contact Hillary Belzer at Johns Hopkins University: or Philip M. Katz at the American Association of Museums:

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